Category Archives: goal setting

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of wisdom” Aristotle

Busy-ness 

 Multi – tasking is our norm. Many of us are so caught up in corporate “busy-ness” that we operate on automatic pilot, lose focus and stop paying attention, not just to our surroundings, but to ourselves. We do as many things as we can at one time in and actually take pride in it. Even boast about it! Constant contact is often not only expected, but demanded by bosses, peers and our families. For the few remaining hours before we finally sleep, we field never ending demands generated by our partners, kids, parents, hobbies, friends, homes and any other relationships in our “free “time.

 Self help
At the same time there has been a marked cultural and economic shift to self- help. Many activities which were previously managed by a service provider we now do ourselves. Our personal hard drives are overloaded with processes we didn’t need to know before: shopping, banking, checking-in, ticketing and reservations, are all done on line. So our “busy-ness” has increased even further, but it has also led to a loss of basic daily interaction that makes us stop, think and engage with other human beings. A smile, a touch, an idle chat. Twitter is the new water-cooler time. Now, if we don’t pay much attention to ourselves, we pay even less to other people.

Missing focus
Scientists believe that as little as 1% of our brain is actively engaged in the activity we are presently “focused “on! I use the word “focus” lightly! This is not even when we are stressed when problems become our central focus when our capacity to pay attention is reduced further. According to Pareto, 80% of our activity generates only 20% of the results. Have you ever opened the refrigerator door and forgotten what you were looking for? No? Lucky you! You can see, with the complexity of modern living, how easy it is for “life” to take on a momentum all of its own, and how effortless it is, to drift. To re-act, not act.

Stress
David E. Meyer, Professor of Psychology, in the Cognition and Perception Program, at University of Michigan, writes extensively on multi-tasking. He believes that excessive multi-tasking “can lead to chronic stress, with potential damage to the cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems”. He maintains that flitting from task to task interferes with demanding and complex mental activities such as reading, having conversations and planning. This all contributes to an increase in the incidence of error. Tasks then take as much as 100% longer than they should to complete. When we under perform and expectations (perceived and actual) are not met, stress levels increase yet again.

Find your own key
Clients in transition often expect me to write their CVs for them because they believe that I will do a better job than they would. Superficially, that might possibly be true. I could certainly write a successful looking document, but it would lack depth and as a career search tool its value would be for a limited period only. As I strongly believe “Find the key to yourself and every door in the world is open to you”, I have to refuse.

Do you know ” you“?
Some career coaches maintain that no one knows you like you do! I’m actually not so sure. My observation is that quite often people are so wrapped up in “busy-ness” that they don’t take/make the time to get to know themselves. So I always think it’s a good idea to at least check where they are on the “know thyself” spectrum. I ask clients to set aside some time, to do one small thing differently, anything that prompts them simply to think, to engage in what they are doing and to be in the moment they are actually doing it in. I encourage them to slow down and to get to know themselves, just thinking.

When I outline this idea many clients look at me askance, as if I’m asking them to sit cross legged in a corner, wearing orange robes, chanting and using “F” words ( no not that one – the other ones …Feelings.) ” What’s this got to do with my job and you writing my CV?” these hard headed executives ask. My personal belief is that it’s all key.

Mono – task
As coaches we all recommend different strategies to create some moments of focused thought – mono-tasking. To purists it’s not even mono-tasking – but I live in the grey world of approximation! Just eating, just jogging, just driving, just looking at a view, with no other distractions – only thoughts. Most people find it harder than they imagine.

We spend about 76000 hours in our lives working, so it’s important to get it as right as we can.

So what do I suggest clients should be thinking about?

  • What am I passionate about?
  • What do I believe in? ( values)
  • What are my life goals ( general)
  • What are my professional goals (specific)
  • What have my challenges in life been?
  • How did I deal with them? (Actions)
  • What did I achieve? (Results)
  • What skills did I call upon?

Alignment
We then need to check that all these thoughts are aligned, so our chosen professional path is what we want to be doing, or somewhere close. I am passionate about tennis, but given my skill level, and any potential to improve being close to zero, clearly I can’t make a career out of it! So compromise and prioritising is required and some will be deal breakers and others won’t.

When we have completed this process and start to get to know ourselves, we can begin to take control and articulate our own message successfully and independently, in all circumstances. We might need some help – but no one can do it all for us. To make this happen, we need to be prepared to stop and just think.

For many of us, making even the smallest change can offer many new and exciting options.

Career Management: A Learned Skill

Countless numbers of CVs cross my screen every day, either from candidates in the search process, or clients involved in transition coaching. So I’m pretty familiar with them

Jim Rohn usefully tell us ” To solve any problem, there are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, who could I ask? ” Great advice!

In the past week alone, by chance, I have seen a CV without an email address, one seemingly without a name (really.. although it did finally appear at the bottom of the 3rd page, in italics, font size 10) Another two, where it was impossible to tell what job the candidates actually did. This is before going into the more sophisticated aspects of SEO, transferrable, value-adding skills and the like. It’s a snapshot of a standard, unexceptional week. All four felt that they could manage their careers themselves. There were more – but you get the picture.

The credibility gap

I did have one perfect resume (my spirits lifted – it doesn’t take much!) But when the candidate came to the interview, disappointment kicked in. Within minutes of our discussion, I could tell from the responses, that the guy in front of me bore no resemblance to the message conveyed in the resume. There was a credibility gap, a big one. Why? It just wasn’t his voice. The CV had been written by a CV writing service with no integrated or follow-up coaching. When we talked about the process he had been through, he had made a decision that finding a job was something he could do on his own. He believed he didn’t need anything else.

I am starting to wonder if career management is like raising kids and being in relationships. Is it something most of us feel we can all do instinctively? Until there’s a problem. So now, even in the face of all the statistics that scream change and difficult times, job losses outstrip vacancies 3:1 in Europe; we still have a tendency to believe that we can cope on our own.

“Yes” / “But ”  dialogue 

Discussions on this subject tend to centre on what I call the “Yes..but” dialogue. “Yes” means “ I hear and recognise what is going on”. The inner message suggests openness “But” means “ I’m not going to change. There is something about the status quo that suits me, even if it’s being stressed ” The inner message is closed.

My observation is that there are a number of consistent factors that people use as claims for their rightful spot in the “but” camp: no energy, no time, cost.

So I am just asking you to try reframing your thoughts and putting them into perspective. Manage your mind!

Reframe the no energy issue. Formulate a mission statement. This is just a buzz word for an action orientated, note-to-self. If you have been caught out in this downturn and are currently feeling overwhelmed, now would be a good time to deal not just with those specific issues, but also to prepare for the future. Life is never static and nothing is permanent. There will be other situations to deal with right throughout your career. Promotions, re-organisations and transfers are just some of the possible changes that any of us face, even in sound economic times. If you found a hole in your roof, would you wait until the next storm to fix it? No, I doubt if you would

Focus

A mission statement will help you focus on what is important in your life, so that you can prioritise your goals and provide a framework for your daily decisions. It will allow you to act, not react. This opens up a whole raft of possibilities. Choose strategies that offer long term skills and problem solving tools, which you can use again and again, not just a band–aid, quick fix approach, to get you out of a short term jam. You need to commit to the journey, not just a stroll. That will help you bridge the credibility gap. Include objectives to nurture yourself both emotionally and physically. These steps will make you feel more in charge. Empowerment is energising. Energy creates time.

Reframe the question of time. There is a wealth of free resources online , in libraries and inexpensive bookshops. But I agree, it does it takes a huge amount of time to sort through the vast quantities of conflicting, often confusing, professional information. Let’s look at this too.

Seemingly the average American watches 4h 32m of TV per day, while in Europe its 3h 37m per person. There has apparently been a 38.8% increase for online video viewing, in the 12 months, March 2008 to 2009. Even if you cut back by 10 percent on your favourite shows, that would still release about 3 hours a week to focus on your career goals. I took a week in elapsed time to download all my CDs onto my iPod. Most of our daughters take way over an hour to get ready for a date.

So the question to ask yourself – can you really not find the time?

Reframe the question of cost. Step back and put the question on any current or future investment regarding career transition support into perspective.

You spend at least 8 hours of any day working at your job. This goes on for possibly 40 years. Total will be about 76,000 hours in your life or career. Do the maths. Even as a daily investment – how minimal is any expenditure throughout a working career? Now put that into context. We are talking about fractions of Dollars, Euros, Pounds, Yen and most other currencies over a total working life.

If this is something you can’t stretch to now, make a note to build professional support into your future budget, in the way you might make contingency funds for painting your house or that hole in your roof.

These simple strategies should get us out of the “but” camp. But only if that’s not where we want to be.